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Overcoming selfish ambition

I wrote something to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have first place among them, does not receive our authority. This is why, if I come, I will remind him of the works he is doing, slandering us with malicious words. And he is not satisfied with that! He not only refuses to welcome fellow believers, but he even stops those who want to do so and expels them from the church. 3 John 1:9-10 CSB

After complementing Gaius, John turns his attention to Diotrephes. This opening part saying, “I wrote something to the church, but Diotrephes…” suggests that John wrote a letter to the church (presumably Gaius and Diotrephes attend the same church), but Diotrephes potentially hid the letter. Diotrephes “loves to have first place among them,” meaning that Diotrephes loved to have prominence. Since this is following after the traveling missionaries, this could be interpreted that Diotrephes wanted to be elevated or praised over the missionaries. Instead of thinking about serving God through the church, he thinks highly of himself. Also, Diotrephes disregards John’s, and presumably the other apostles’, “authority,” meaning that he is rejecting their correction. He acts in contrast to what Jesus commands His disciples’ attitude should be. “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave” (Matthew 20:26-27). Because of this issue, John would personally want to come and “remind him of the works he is doing.” Diotrephes is in trouble due to three actions: “slandering us with malicious words,” meaning that he gossips or speaks evil about others; “refuses to welcome fellow believers,” meaning that he refuses to help the traveling missionaries; and finally, “stops those who want to do so and expels them from the church,” meaning that he turns away the missionaries and stops them from doing what they were called to do, witness to unbelievers. This goes against Jesus’ command to love one another (John 15:12 “This is my command: Love one another as I have loved you.”), as well as, go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20). Diotrephes is an example of what not to do as a believer of Christ, as opposed to Gaius. If we are believers, we should be obedient to Christ’s commands. Fellowship among believers is affected when somebody pursues personal ambition rather than serving God by serving others. God gave us an example of what service to Him is all about. “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).


Isaac De Guzman


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